Did you know that in the California high desert, 1,400 ft up in elevation, grows an abundance of Asian fruits?
I visited with Jujube and Ume cooperatives this week. These fruits figure centrally in East Asian foods, especially in traditional cultural practices. The Korean farmers who grow these fruits already have a market, but these products are so uniquely delicious and culturally significant that there’s room for growth. The farmers are organizing with each other to share best practices, improve operations, and gain organic certification.
Yes yes, I hear you asking, “What’s a Jujube? What’s an Ume?” Jujubes are related to apricots, but their texture is more like a marshmallow. It tastes light and perfumed when eaten fresh, and like a sweet plum when dried. Dried jujubes feel like meringues as you crunch into this naturally sweet fruit that dissolves on your tongue.
Ume plums have a mealy texture and don’the have much flavor when ripe, so theyre picked when young, green, and tart. The crunchy, tart fruits are they’re typically packed in salt or sugar to extract the flavor. You’ll find umeboshi as a Japanese flavor-enhancement, or ume syrup in deserts, or salted ume snacks. Also as plum wine! (though technically also related to the apricot.)
I’m working with these farmers to guide them through food safety regulations, organic certification, and cooperative development. Few resources exist in Korean, or any non-English language, and yet these strict regulations hinder these small farms from serving their communities.
I’ll let you know when you can get some for yourself!